Kids of all ages will gain a new appreciation for water, and Salas and Dabija will surely gain new fans.

WATER CAN BE . . .

In a look at the forms, functions and uses of water, Salas and Dabija turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The simple text and spot-on rhymes belie the sophistication of the inherent message behind the verse—water is a life-giver. It creates the weather, quenches thirst, is a habitat for animals, helps the plants and trees grow, both cools and insulates, fights fires, soothes injuries and beautifies the Earth in myriad ways. Mentioning only spring and autumn by name, the pictures nonetheless cycle through all four seasons. “Water is water— / it’s puddle, pond, sea. / When springtime comes splashing, / the water flows free. // Water can be a… / Tadpole hatcher / Picture catcher // Otter feeder / Downhill speeder // Garden soaker / Valley cloaker.” Dabija’s illustrations, created with a combination of traditional and digital techniques and filled with simple shapes and vivid, vibrant colors, are misty, scratchy, sometimes-impressionistic, always atmospheric—in a word, beautiful. Even older elementary students will welcome the shimmering pairings of words and artwork, their teachers using this as both a science lesson and a writing exercise—can students write as poetically, economically and informatively as Salas? Backmatter extends the poetic hints in brief paragraphs (“Rainbow jeweler” describes how rainbows form, for example).

Kids of all ages will gain a new appreciation for water, and Salas and Dabija will surely gain new fans. (glossary, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-0591-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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Just the thing for anyone with a Grinch-y tree of their own in the yard.

THE HALLOWEEN TREE

A grouchy sapling on a Christmas tree farm finds that there are better things than lights and decorations for its branches.

A Grinch among the other trees on the farm is determined never to become a sappy Christmas tree—and never to leave its spot. Its determination makes it so: It grows gnarled and twisted and needle-less. As time passes, the farm is swallowed by the suburbs. The neighborhood kids dare one another to climb the scary, grumpy-looking tree, and soon, they are using its branches for their imaginative play, the tree serving as a pirate ship, a fort, a spaceship, and a dragon. But in winter, the tree stands alone and feels bereft and lonely for the first time ever, and it can’t look away from the decorated tree inside the house next to its lot. When some parents threaten to cut the “horrible” tree down, the tree thinks, “Not now that my limbs are full of happy children,” showing how far it has come. Happily for the tree, the children won’t give up so easily, and though the tree never wished to become a Christmas tree, it’s perfectly content being a “trick or tree.” Martinez’s digital illustrations play up the humorous dichotomy between the happy, aspiring Christmas trees (and their shoppers) and the grumpy tree, and the diverse humans are satisfyingly expressive.

Just the thing for anyone with a Grinch-y tree of their own in the yard. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7335-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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